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[Nigeria]Nigerian glossary


If all your tools are hammers…

Filed under: VSO — kevin @ 07:24

… you’re probably working in Nigeria.

Last week the contractors finally arrived to fix the roof of the building my office is in. It’s a fairly well-designed building but for some bizarre reason the architect decided that it would be a good idea to have flat roofs over some parts. Just like back in the UK these need to be repaired every year, when water starts leaking through.

This is usually manageable with buckets and just allowing the carpet to soak up the water (why many offices smell a bit moldy), but the worst place for leaks this year has been the internet café. In particular, there was a lovely leak right over the equipment rack in our server room.

We seem to have fairly good contractors, the guy in charge has been expanding the drains on the roof and using concrete to add a gentle slope towards the drains. We’ve had a bit of difficulty persuading his workers that the satellite antenna (for our internet connection) is not a washing line and that although it provides nice shade in the afternoon sitting in front of it probably isn’t good for you. I know that if our internet connection stops working I just have to go outside and ask the workmen to move themselves or their clothes.

There’s been a lot of noise too, as they use hammers to bash holes for the new drains and to expand existing drains. They’re almost finished now, so we’re looking forward to dry offices, at least until next time the roof needs to be repaired.


Old maps of Nigeria

Filed under: VSO — kevin @ 09:14

While looking for some other information I found this interesting 1896 map of “Hausaland”:
Map showing what is now Nigeria

There are quite a few other interesting odds and ends on the site: The British Empire.

Perks of the job

Filed under: VSO — kevin @ 09:00

Jeremy has posted details of the perks of being a legislator in Nigeria.

It makes quite sickening reading, especially things such as “Senate President David Mark … is to have eight official cars including two for personal use, two as pilot cars, and one each for protocol, ambulance, security, and the press.” A man of such great importance obviously needs a separate car to ferry around his press lackeys and two to clear the roads in front of him.

It would be interesting to compare these perks to legislators in other countries, but I really don’t have time to research it just now. It would also be interesting to compare to some of the non-governmental people in Nigeria, such as the EU consultants who fly in, live in considerable luxury while they pass on their wisdom and then fly out again.

Still, it’s difficult to explain the level of revulsion and anger I feel every time some “big man’s” convoy passes by on the road. I’m pretty sure the average state governor here has a larger convoy than Tony Blair, just to make him feel more important.

A decent government would restrict these idiots to one car and a driver, possibly with some security vehicles, if required.


More demolitions in Abuja

Filed under: VSO — kevin @ 10:00

Last time I was in Abuja I used my phone to take some pictures of the aftermath of demolitions at Utako Ultra-Modern International Market. It seems that the two-storey buildings that had surrounded the market (and held up the sign with the impressive name) were illegal, so down they had to come.
Concrete rubble in front of a market Remains of demolished buildings in a market

I’m sure they’ll be replaced with some more of the shiny “plazas” that blight Abuja. That is shopping complexes that are mostly empty apart from clothes shops operated as a hobby by the wives and girlfriends of rich men and where only their friends shop.


Filed under: VSO — kevin @ 09:31

The two groups of trade unions in Nigeria, the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress, are planning a general strike in an attempt to force the government to back down on the recent increase in VAT and fuel prices.

If the strike goes ahead it could make life very difficult. The petroleum industry unions are already on strike, leading to a petrol shortage that has pushed prices up still further. People have been advised to stockpile food.

I was watching TV this morning to find out what the situation was and saw an interview with a Lagos PDP politician. As usual it was more a series of monologues than an interview but some of it was interesting. The PDP man at one point encouraged civil disobedience and non-payment of taxes and also made the interesting claim that according to political science as soon as a government is sworn in it is legitimate. So it doesn’t matter how much an election has been rigged, as soon as you’re sworn in everything’s OK.

I find the political parties here interesting. They seldom seem to have any policies or ideas but act more as groupings of people who want power. Politicians move freely between parties as it suits them. In this they remind me very much of New Labour in the UK, no morals, no ideals, just a craving for power.

As an aside, it seems very Nigerian to me that there are two groups of trade unions, one for ‘senior’ workers and one for their ‘juniors’.


Filed under: rant,VSO — kevin @ 09:18

It’s part of life in Nigeria that electricity is either absent, or not where it should be.

I discovered at the weekend that the spare circuit breaker in my house’s fusebox isn’t just spare and not connected. It serves the very useful purpose of electrifying the taps in my bathroom.

This is not the first part of my house that has given me electric shocks, but a bathroom is a particularly bad place given the combination of electricity and water. I’m just lucky that the floor is tiled and a fairly good insulator.

The training of electricians in Nigeria is pitiful. Most of them seem to have briefly attended primary school and then at some later point been given a pair of pliers and a screwdriver that lights up, that’s it. They have no understanding of electricity at all. For example, the electrician at the zonal office in Bauchi last week did a very neat job of wiring up lots of sockets but didn’t see any problem in connecting them all to a single plug (in fact two wires pushed into the socket, he’d run out of plugs).

The same lack of understanding means that almost no electrical equipment here is earthed, one of the fundamentals of electrical safety. Why bother with that fiddly third wire when two will do?


The development of Abuja

Filed under: VSO — kevin @ 11:44

Event though I don’t live in Abuja any more I’m still interested in the place. While I was looking for something else today I found an architectural site with some photos of early models of the Abuja Central Area. It’s interesting to see how far the Master Plan and reality have diverged.

For example, have a look at this picture. Apart from the National Arboretum and the Three Arms Zone there is little recognisable as Abuja.


Two Days

Filed under: travel,VSO — kevin @ 14:08

I just spent a couple of days working in Bauchi. My colleague Niyi and I had to install some software and set up some computers at the North-East zonal office, as part of the plan to decentralise some of NTI’s enormous data entry activities.
A small room with two large desks and five computers.  Kevin is standing behind one of the computers.

We took a bush taxi from Kaduna on Monday morning, making the mistake of choosing the back row. Along the (atrocious) road to Jos my head kept banging off the roof. Getting to Jos took quite a while because of the many police and army checkpoints, each one requiring the usual twenty Naira dash before allowing us to pass. After Jos the road is much better, so the rest of the journey wasn’t too exciting (I’ve become quite casual about ridiculous near-death overtaking manouevres).

Mungo Park and the Niger

Filed under: books,VSO — kevin @ 13:42

The New Gong magazine has a website with various interesting articles and pictures. Because of my interest in the history of Nigeria my attention was drawn to one about Mungo Park, often claimed to be the “discoverer” of the river Niger.

The article points out that he himself never claimed the discovery and that he was very glad of the hospitality of the African people. For once an old British explorer comes out as not being a monster, interested in people and their lives rather than glory and empire.


My last Kabba weekend?

Filed under: friends,travel,VSO — kevin @ 20:08

It has been a long time since my last weekend in Kabba, so I was glad when the Kabba Boys got in touch to invite me again. A large group of VSOs, Irish embassy staff and various others descended on Kabba for conversation, beer, crazy golf and even hungover hiking.

The Kabba Boys are moving to Bauchi later this year and their final Kabba party will be after I leave Nigeria, so this was probably my last weekend there. The next few months are going to be full of “last”s, building up the combination of sadness and excitement that comes with finishing something.

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